The Exeter Riddles: Riddles Without a Clue


    The Exeter Book is a valuable piece of literature that has resided in the Exeter Cathedral Library since the 11th century. It is one of the few remaining literary works from its time. Within the pages of the book is a variety of Anglo-Saxon poetry that includes more than ninety riddles that have puzzled scholars ever since. The poetry and riddles in the book give insight and intrigue of how the people of this time period lived and what was important in their lives.

    The puzzles cover a wide variety of topics, from religion to onions. Each of them with hidden meanings and messages that was very common not only in riddles and poems, but in all writing of this time. All the riddles in the Exeter Book are very well studied and documented by academics. Although many have guessed the answers to these riddles, only speculation can be made regarding the true intended answers of these riddles as the authors did not leave any of the answers. Many of them are hotly contested and only a few have any kind of consensus on what the answer refers to, making them some of the best riddles out there.

    Some of these good riddles are written in a very cryptic way, which makes it very difficult to even guess what the answer would be; while others have a double meaning, leaving an obvious answer for those who only look at the puzzle and another hidden for those with more time. It almost seems pointless to spend so much time solving these good riddles when one can never really solve them, but that is what makes them so attractive to the people who study them. The real goal is to find an answer that fits the puzzle itself, that fits the time the puzzles were written, and that makes sense to everyone who reads it. So instead of solving these puzzles, the goal is to solve them in the best way. An example of one of the riddles in this book is riddle 38 in the book that describes a young creature. He says: “I saw a creature: masculine, greedy with all the abandonment of youth. As his due his tutor gave him four springs, four fountains, shooting and shining. A man spoke, he said to me: ‘Long live, the creature breaks the dead ; dead and shattered, bind the living ‘”. The supposed answer to this riddle is a young bull, which fits the description very well, although you may be able to think of several other creatures that fit the description very well.

    The Book of Exeter is an important text full of good riddles that have been very important to the understanding of literature and to scholars in the field of literature. It will be used as a reference for its time and will be the subject of many scholarly articles for years to come.